Knowing he belongs to a family and community is a key concept for your toddler to learn. Provide lots of opportunities for him to have special people in his life—those who are delighted to spend time with him.
What Your Toddler is Learning
Most 16 month olds are walking pretty well and are beginning to run. Their run looks rather stiff legged as they learn to balance at their new speed. Your toddler will still often trip over his own feet and misjudge distances.
His goal this month is likely to be going up and down stairs. If he has not attempted the stairs before, he will want to begin to climb on hands and knees. Encourage him to back down on his tummy, feet first. If he has been crawling up the stairs for some time, he will want to start “walking” upstairs holding your hand or the railing. It will probably be a few months yet before he will try walking down solo.
His small muscle development has progressed to being able to scribble with a crayon. You will have to supervise his drawing or you will have his art displayed on walls and furniture. But he will enjoy making crayon creations for you.
Like language skills, motor skills develop in a predictable sequence. Babies learn these skills at different rates, but there are some signs by this age that signal developmental problems. The earlier you notice a problem and get help, the better the chance for improvement.
Signs to watch for:
- Your child’s limbs seem stiff.
- Your child’s muscles seem floppy and loose.
- Your child doesn’t walk yet.
- Your child is walking on his toes.
- Your child favors one hand or side of his body.
- Your child seems very clumsy.
- Your child is constantly moving.
- Your child has trouble grasping and manipulating objects.
- Your child drools and has difficulty eating.
- Your child’s motor skills are regressing.
If you notice any of these signs in your toddler, talk to your pediatrician about them.
He is investing a lot of meaning into the few words he can say. If he says, “Eat.” He may mean, “I’m hungry. Is there anything I like to eat around here? How long do I have to wait for dinner?” Always expand his one word into a simple sentence. His next step in language is to begin to put two words together.
He “talks” to himself a lot now. When someone responds to his self-talk, he may be very surprised, but he will enjoy the interaction. He learns more vocabulary as he associates the words he hears with the gestures he sees at the same time. He also learns as he echoes words he hears. Pretty soon, his language will snowball. The more he can speak, the more he learns to speak.
Don’t be worried if your 16 month old isn’t saying many words yet. More than 50% of boys and 30% of girls say five or fewer words at this age. As long as he hears and responds to what you say and is continuing to practice babbling, he will catch up in a few months. He is probably spending more of his energy on physical activities.
At 16 months he has been waving, smiling, and playing peek-a-boo for a while. He is probably beginning to initiate displays of affection. If you snuggle or blow kisses, he will probably do it back. He’s beginning to have his own style of social interaction.
He feels powerful and the center of his world, but he can’t do everything he wants to do. He will use you as an extension of himself. For example, when he can’t reach something, he’ll try to get you to do it for him. He wants to succeed at everything he tries, yet often he can’t. He wants your attention and appreciation of his efforts. He loves to see amazement on your face at his new feats of daring. When you admire his attempts, he will keep trying until he can succeed.
He is learning that good behavior leads to hugs and praise, but “no-nos” or being ignored result from bad behavior. What you think is funny and what makes you angry are becoming more and more important to him. One of the best tools at your disposal at this stage is your giving or withholding attention and approval.
Meltdowns may be a frequent occurrence this month.
There are several reasons for meltdowns at this age and each needs to be treated a bit differently.
- He may be overwhelmed by change or anything unexpected. Since he cannot explain the problem, he will likely dissolve in tears and screams. Telling him to stop or getting angry yourself, will not help. Being patient and comforting him will often end this type of meltdown the quickest.
- He may be frustrated with his limited capacity to communicate his desires or dislikes. Waiting until he calms down and then using simple words to describe the problem will let him know you understood and give him words he can learn to express himself at another time.
- Anger at having his will crossed will also trigger tantrums at this age. He is learning that he can’t always have what he wants, when he wants it. Letting him have what he wants will only cause him to believe this is how to get his way in the future. Your consistent, calm response will end the repetition of this kind of tantrum the most quickly. Learning you won’t change your mind and you are not impressed by his display of emotion will lead him to learn a better way to deal with his anger.
Overall, it is better to try to head off meltdowns before they happen. Watch for signs of mounting tension and defuse it when possible.
Ways You Can Help
Climbing and balancing are what your toddler is trying to learn. Plan on spending time at a playground regularly now. Climbing ladders and going down slides help him learn balance in a fun way. Help him use a low curb like a balance beam. Don’t forget to teach him the words up and down while you are at it. Piles of pillows and blankets on the living room floor will work for rainy day exercise.
Beach Ball Catch
A beach ball and a grassy hill with a gentle slope provide all you need for some great outdoor fun. Toss the ball up the hill and show your toddler how to catch it when it rolls down. He will probably not catch it very often, but he will have a
lot of fun chasing the ball around. He will also be learning how to walk on a grade. If he is particularly good at walking and running, this will take him another step closer to learning to catch a ball.
Many of you probably got shape sorter toys for your baby. Until now, he has enjoyed chewing the pieces or throwing them off his highchair. Now is the time to get the set out and begin to encourage him to solve the puzzle. Show him how one shape fits only one way in one hole. Give the shape to him and see how he attacks the problem. Does he keep trying to put it in the wrong way or does he try different approaches? This will help you to know whether you will need to teach him to look for alternate solutions to problems in the future. After he can do one shape regularly, give him two. He will need your help to get the shapes out to try again.
Sleight of Hand
Your toddler is not fooled by your hiding a toy under covers now. No matter how many layers cover his toy, he will search diligently in the last place he saw it before it disappeared. He does not understand actions that occur out of his sight, however.
Let your toddler see you hide a small item inside your hand. Put your hand behind your back and lay down the item. Close your hand and show it to your toddler again. When you open your hand, he will be quite surprised to see the item missing. If you close your hand again, he will try to see in your hand, expecting to find the item. He will not look behind your back.
He has learned to imagine an item that is out of sight. Now he must learn to imagine an action that happens out of his sight. Show him what you did with the item. When you try it again, he will probably look in the right place.
At another sitting, do the same trick with a different object. Then try putting the object into a container behind your back. It will take him many experiences like this before he is able to understand what is happening out of his sight.
One of the major tasks of the first half of your toddler’s second year is to know that he belongs. A settled sense of belonging creates a strong self-image and emotional base.
When you bonded with your baby in the first weeks of life, you were expressing unconditional love. Over these months you have demonstrated in many ways that you love your baby, no matter what he does. You will continue to reinforce this through your care and concern for him, providing what he needs, and your affection.
When you meet his needs, you build his trust. Without trust we can have no meaningful relationships. He has learned he can depend on you to feed him, care for him, and protect him. Your attention to him and meeting his needs has given him a strong foundation of trust.
Now he needs to know he belongs, that he is important, and that people care about what happens to him. He knows he belongs to you, but now he needs to know he belongs to other special people. This is where grandparents and aunts and uncles come in. They notice your child, laugh with him, show concern when he falls down, and their eyes sparkle when they see him. In a multitude of ways they let him know, “You are important! We care about you! You belong to us and we belong to you.”
Most young families today don’t live with their extended family. It is harder to meet these needs for your toddler, but not impossible. Make the effort to be with aunts, uncles, and grandparents as often as possible. When it isn’t possible, find some substitute “special people.” Close friends can be like aunts and uncles to your toddler. Older couples can be substitute grandparents too. As Christians we often ask people we respect to be godparents. They can serve as special people for your toddler to relate to. Give your toddler plenty of opportunities to relate to all the special people in his life.
- Don’t be over-protective and over-fussy. Constant warnings teach your child fear for his own safety.
- Don’t be over-bossy. Constant nagging teaches your child to anticipate criticism.
- Don’t always make him “star of the show”. Constant showing off teaches him to expect praise for everything he does and be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
- Don’t always greet him first. He will not see the need to initiate social interactions.
- Don’t worry about thumb sucking and security blankets. In time he’ll give them up.
- Don’t push your child beyond what is expected at his age. Even if he is ahead of schedule, he needs to have all the basic experiences typical for his age. Pushing him ahead in those areas he is already ahead of schedule may cause you to neglect the areas where he is behind. It is much better for him to be well-rounded than to forge too far ahead in one area.
- Don’t try to potty train yet. He does not have the muscle control to be truly potty trained. It is you, not him that is trained and then he may seriously have problems learning for himself later.
- Don’t teach your toddler to read. Teach him how to learn, then he will be ready at the right time.
What to Expect Next
- Takes off one piece of clothing by himself
- Uses six words regularly
- Throws a ball underhand
Table Talk- Throwing Food
One of the most common complaints of moms of toddlers is that they throw their food, bowl, and cup on the floor. There are a couple different reasons for this bad behavior. Toddlers just do not eat as much as they did. Their growth is slowing down and they don’t require as much food as they did before they turned a year old. Also, the food they eat has more calories than the milk they drank before. It is sometimes hard for parents to believe their toddler is getting enough to eat, but when your toddler starts throwing his food off his tray, he probably has had enough to eat.
When your baby was younger he threw his food, bowl, and cup off his highchair tray just to watch it drop. He had to discover gravity for himself. A little later, he threw things off because he was exercising his new skill of throwing. Now, he is interested in the response he gets from his parents. If mom yelled the last time food was thrown, will she yell this time? Is that the permanent response to throwing food, or will it be different this time? Until he is convinced he gets the same response each time, he is likely to keep up this bad habit. Your consistency in the way you handle this behavior is what will train your toddler most efficiently.
With these last two concepts in mind, here’s a logical approach to flying food. First, don’t give your toddler any more than a bite or two at a time on his tray. This means a lot less food on the floor. Give him a drink in a snap-on lid cup and only when he wants a drink. Then when he begins to throw the food, tell him, “Food is for eating, not playing. If you throw any more food, you will get down from your chair.” When the next piece gets thrown, remove the food, lift him down from his chair, and don’t give him anything else to eat until the next mealtime. He will not starve! After only a few times, he will decide to quit throwing food.
Toddlers do not sit at the table well after they are finished eating. At home you will be able to teach him to sit until excused from the table when he is older. But that is not a lesson for toddlers. They want to be on the go. This makes it hard to eat out at a restaurant. Probably, for your own sanity as well as the enjoyment of other patrons, it is better to only take your toddler to kid-friendly eateries. There will come the time when he will enjoy sitting in his chair longer and coloring or playing with some small toys, but not at this age.
Don’t despair, just be consistent and you will all get through this stage.
Heavenly Father, we are so amazed as we watch our little one turn into a little person with his own personality and will. Thank you for trusting us with the care of this child of yours. Give us wisdom for raising our child to be all You want him to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen